The St. Louis Board of Education's Desegregation Report represents a comprehensive effort by the Board to study and address the complex issues affecting the St. Louis Public Schools. The Board and its staff have spent a considerable period of time consulting with individuals and groups, studying the law of desegregation, analyzing educational research, reviewing current programs, exploring financial issues, pursuing new initiatives, considering demographic and enrollment data, and planning for the future of the St. Louis Public Schools.
The Report provides a method for achieving unitary status and releasing the Board of Education and the State of Missouri from continuing federal court supervision, while simultaneously providing for a quality education for all students, regardless of race.
Specifically, the Report includes the following proposals, some of which are subject to Court approval, but many of which the Board can implement on its own.
The Board intends to enhance student and parental choice by developing a choice-based student assignment plan which allows students in regular integrated and non-integrated schools to choose their school of attendance, within certain parameters to be determined after further demographic study and community input. This effort will include the expansion of magnet themes to regular integrated and non-integrated schools and the implementation of additional preschools. Mandatory transfers for purposes of racial balance will be eliminated.
The Board will also enhance choice by fully implementing the current Magnet School Plan with some changes which provide additional opportunities for City students. This includes establishing a number of new magnets and eliminating "priorities" for admission, except for a sibling priority, educational continuity within the same magnet theme, and certain neighborhood set-asides. The priority for County students would be eliminated. Racial balance goals at existing magnets schools would be changed from 55% black/45% white to 60% black/40% white.
The Board supports student and parental choice through the continuation of the Voluntary Interdistrict Transfer Program. During 1995-96, independent experts should conduct a thorough assessment and make recommendations regarding goals for student achievement and success by transfer students in the County school districts, and recommendations for improvements to the Voluntary Transfer Program, and recommendations regarding whether the Program should be reduced or phased-out and whether the administration should be transferred to the local districts.
Integrated Housing Initiatives
The Board will ask the District Court to reappoint Dr. Gary Orfield as a Court expert to update housing plans submitted by various parties in 1980 and 1981, in conjunction with a committee of knowledgeable persons.
The Board may also hire an outside expert to assist in the housing plan process.
Mandatory housing remedies against the State of Missouri may be appropriate based on the specific housing-related findings previously made with respect to segregation in St. Louis.
Reform and Reorganization
The Board of Education will implement systemic educational reform and reorganization to remedy the systemic effects of unlawful segregation. This will include the following steps:
- Implement a school-based management system with increased parental involvement and decision-making at the local school level.
- Establish standards and defined expectations for learning and performance.
- Establish multi-assessment measures (beyond standardized test scores) to evaluate the achievement of standards and defined expectations.
- Require accountability for results.
- Provide comprehensive staff development efforts.
- Review and evaluate all existing quality education programs to eliminate ineffective or duplicative efforts and to ensure that the focus of those programs is on improving academic achievement, student attendance, student discipline, student graduation and movement into higher education.
- Implement additional Community Education Centers and expand the Caring Communities approach to more schools.
- Implement changes in the current administrative structure and organization of the school system.
- Enhance the technology in St. Louis Public Schools in order to help improve the delivery of services to students.
The Board will continue to ask the District Court to merge and consolidate the City and County vocational educational programs, and to establish a four-year state-of-the-art vocational and general academic program for secondary students in the City of St. Louis.
The Board will continue to provide safe and secure learning environments, consistent with the successful efforts made during the last several years.
School Maintenance and Capital Improvements
The Board will fully implement the present Preventive Maintenance Program to ensure comprehensive maintenance of the Board's physical plant following completion of the Capital Improvements Program.
The Board will make additional capital improvements such as construction of a new Vashon High School, construction of additional magnet schools, and construction and renovation to accommodate school choice, Community Education Centers and other programs.
The Board will consider additional building enhancements which are not a part of the current Capital Improvements Program, such as new plumbing, cooling and heating systems.
The Board proposes that desegregation funding by reason of extraordinary court orders be terminated as of the fiscal year 2001, provided that the State of Missouri establishes a realistic and effective system of funding for the St. Louis Public Schools. The Board suggests the State consider the following alternatives:
Amend the State Foundation Formula:
- Base eligible pupils, at least partially, on membership, not attendance.
- Include a categorical add-on which addresses the needs of at-risk children.
- Increase overall State funding for education and fully fund the Formula.
- Increase the rate and amount of State reimbursement for the Board's transportation costs.
- Consolidate and reorganize the school districts in the St. Louis metropolitan area so as to equitably distribute the area's wealth and resources in a manner which provides sufficient funds to meet the needs of all children.
- Impose a majority vote requirement for tax increases.
- Abolish tax abatements or require cities to reimburse school districts through development revenues for tax moneys lost to the school district as a result of the abatement.
- Impose a State or City tax, other than a property tax, the proceeds of which would be granted to the Board, i.e., a regional earnings or income tax, amusement or entertainment tax, hotel-motel tax, gambling tax, etc.
The Board adopted the following timetable in August, 1995:
- Immediately ask the District Court to partially relieve the Board of judicial control over student assignments to regular schools within the City, site selection, building utilization and certain reporting requirements.
- Complete the quality education program evaluations during 1995-96.
- Fully implement reforms and transition plans during the period September, 1996 through June, 1999.
- Immediately ask the Court to order the State of Missouri to submit a report on permanent State funding mechanisms to be established by the 2000-2001 school year to ensure sufficient funding for educating the children residing in the City of St. Louis.
- After the 1998-99 school year, ask the District Court to hold a hearing to determine if the Board and State have fulfilled their obligations and if judicial supervision should be fully withdrawn.The Board emphasizes that public input into the various parts of the Desegregation Report is considered an absolute necessity. Much work must be done to implement the Report, and public review and comment will strengthen that process. The Board will look forward to the constructive suggestions of all individuals and groups.